Ultima Handicap Chase

The first handicap of the meeting but it's not a great race for favourites

Handicap Chase: 3m 1f, Tuesday, March 15, 2:50pm

Key Stat: There have only been two winning favourites since 1977

A strong trends race with six of the last seven winners officially rated between 142-146,  so that looks a good starting point in identifying the winner.

It used to be a tough race for novice chasers, but the learners have now won four of the last 12 contests.

While it may pay to swerve the fav (just two winning since 1977), 11 winners have come from the first four in the betting since 2000.

Trainers to note include Jonjo O’Neill who has won three of the last seven contests while Alan King’s record of two winners and a third since 2003 catches the eye. Alan King’s stable sponsor also started sponsoring this race last year so he will be especially keen to go close again.

British champion trainer Paul Nicholls is 0-17 runners however and while Irish trainers  ended a 38-year drought with Youlneverwalkalone here in 2003 before Dun Doire obliged three years later. Two Irish-trained horses took their chance and they went on to fill the next two places behind The Druids Nephew.

Previous Cheltenham Festival form is always a bonus and eight of the last 18 winners had finished in the first four at this meeting before. Also note that seven of the last 12 winners won last time out.

What do you think?